The grounded absurdity of Yorgos Lanthimos

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Good morning: In today’s edition of The Industry, we look at:

Christian Bale’s KGB, Olivia Wilde’s Bridesmaids, Barry Lyndon, and a robot’s dream.

Let’s go!


THE GROUNDED ABSURDITY OF YORGOS LANTHIMOS

Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things is a fiery exploration of selfhood.

No spoilers beyond what’s seen in the trailer follow.

Bella Baxter, played by the vivacious Emma Stone, is continually trapped inside fantastical spaces: her birth home doubling as a surgical laboratory, a stifling ship, a Parisian brothel, a labyrinth-like castle, and most critically, herself.

She combats these entrapments with a visceral exploration of herself. In one of the most entertaining scenes in the film, that’s dance:

Anatomy of the Dance, Lanthimos breaks down how Stone’s movements evolve from the primitive to the profound.

Lanthimos has always been a master of the hyper-real and hyper-stylized. His debut film, Dogtooth (2009), centers on a father’s imprisonment of his adult children through the creation of a false mythology about the outside world e.g., a cat is the most dangerous animal (trailer).

His follow-up films, such as The Lobster (2015), The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), and The Favourite (2018), conquer similar territory.

He explains:

“I think you can be much truer to real emotions and reality by creating something that on the surface seems artificial but, by then putting everything together in the end, is much more impactful than trying to use realism in every individual element of the film.”

As Lanthimos’ budgets have expanded:

  • $270K Dogtooth
  • $4M The Lobster
  • $15M The Favourite
  • $35M Poor Things

He’s been able to enhance that sense of artificiality, which in turn enhances the realism.

Poor Things, with it’s bombastic costume and set design, stretches further than any Lanthimos film in the past and creates a character of pure beauty as a stand-in for the human condition struggling to realize one’s identity.

This narrative arc is emblematic of Lanthimos’ cinema – a tapestry of the bizarre and the authentic, interwoven, compelling us to confront the profound truths about human nature and society, often concealed beneath the veneer of the absurd.

For More:

New Poor Things trailer.

The Lobster, Lanthimos’ first English language film is a fantastical meditation on modern love. Watch the trailer here.

Lanthimos talks about developing the script of The Favourite for 7-8 years in this longer BTS video.


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Best of Enemies: Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale re-unite. Cooper and Bale first appeared together in David O’Russell’s American Hustle (2013). The co-writer of that film, Eric Warren Singer, is also penning their new project, Best of Enemies.

Here’s the synopsis:

A CIA agent (Cooper) and a KGB spy (Bale) develop a bond during the waning days of the Cold War, with the two men trying to convince each other to betray their country.

The film is being produced by Charles Roven (Oppenheimer, The Dark Knight, American Hustle). The powerhouse combination of actors and producers is primed to ignite a massive studio/streamer bidding war.

Paramount plans to sell? The company has been shopping its assets:

Shari Redstone, the media mogul president of National Amusements, owns 82.5% of Paramount. She is also the owner of CBS, MTV, and Skydance Media (Mission: Impossible 47, Top Gun: Maverick, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts).

It’s been reported that she’s looking to sell her stake in her media company, which has sparked Paramount executives to submit a Severance Protection Plan to the SEC (US Securities and Exchange Commission).

Shares of Paramount were up 14%.

This sale would signal to the industry that the current unprofitability of streaming services vs linear TV is unsalvagable.

The Bikerriders secures a new studio + release date. Recapping last month, Disney and its subsidiary, 20th Century Fox, who owns a 20% stake in New Regency, the production company behind The Bikeriders (dir: Jeff Nichols, starring Austin Butler and Tom Hardy) dropped it from their release date calendar because they couldn’t promote it due to the actor’s strike.

Focus Features has picked up the project. It is now releasing on June 21, 2024. No new Focus Features promotional material yet, but here’s the old trailer.


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

Ryan O’Neal, star of Paper Moon (1973) and Barry Lyndon (1975), passed away at 82. O’Neal’s first major appearance on-screen was Love Story (1970), where he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor; it was also the highest-grossing film of 1970, featuring the now-famous quote:

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

He went on to play a con man in Peter Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon (trailer). But his crowning achievement was Barry Lyndon. His wide-ranging characterization of the boastful, tragic, cowardly, enigmatic Lyndon, trapped inside Kubrick’s grandiose painting-like frames was magnetizing (trailer). Read the full NY Times obit here, including an unfortunate turn of events in his later years.

Gael García Bernal is fearless in his new film Cassandro. Here’s the official logline:

Follows the true story of Cassandro, the ”exotico” character created by Saúl Armendáriz, gay amateur wrestler from El Paso who rose to international stardom.

García Bernal discusses his months-long preparation for the role in Cassandro:

“Everything was either physical or psychoanalytical, in a way. But then there comes the part of the costume, which just transforms you immediately.”

García Bernal’s physicality in the trailer is fantastic.

The actor burst into the spotlight with early films by Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Amores Perros) and Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mama Tambien), where his raw sensuality and bleeding heart passion are on full display.

Cassandro was written and directed by Roger Ross Williams, Academy Award winner for the short documentary Music by Prudence (2009). The film is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Hopefully, García Bernal’s versatility in this performance will launch him into more prestige roles.

Christopher Abbott is indie cinema’s most introspective killer. He has an immeasurable range in these roles:

He’s acted in nine films that have premiered at Sundance and most recently played a surprise role in Yorgos’ Poor Things. No spoilers below, but his proneness to inner anger is terrifying. He plays his scenes with sharpness, intensity, and amazing self-control.

He’s just been attached to Ari Aster’s (Hereditary) upcoming film Eddington, which will start shooting early next year.


FESTIVALS

Writing an Action movie? The John Wick 4 screenplay, is peppered with a delightful array of villains like a blind assassin (video) and a psychopathic bouncer (video).

The script is available here.

The Black List partners with Stowe Story Labs to launch the Emerging Talent Fellowship, offering an aspiring screenwriter a chance to join the Stowe Story Labs Narrative Lab in Vermont. The fellowship includes a $1,500 stipend for travel and lodging, access to Stowe’s long-form writing programs or customized mentoring, and is part of Stowe’s commitment to nurturing talent with over $80,000 in scholarships.

Applications close December 25. Apply here.


TECH SECTION

From 24K renders to miniatures, Poor Things employed a panoply of VFX techniques. Simon Hughes, Union VFX‘s visual effects supervisor, discussed his collaboration with Lanthimos and with production designers and the challenges of integrating miniatures, saying:

“Yorgos was very excited about using miniatures, so a lot of our conversations revolved around how to piece together these more traditional filmmaking techniques with our VFX approach to end up with something photoreal enough to sit in with everything else that was captured in the camera while maintaining a miniature scale.”

This approach of blending miniatures with LED wall projections displaying 24K renders (70m x 90 m) from ocean to sky in a single frame and digital compositing achieves a unique visual style. Read more about their process, plus some bizarre sky experiments.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

Olivia Wilde is back in the director’s chair with Naughty. Harkening back to her hilarious debut with Booksmart, she described her new film as:

“Bridesmaids at the North Pole”

The official logline:

Follows Mallory, whose only chance to get custody of her son back from her trash-bag of a former boyfriend is to track down Santa Claus and persuade him to appear in court.

Her new movie is being produced by Margot Robbie, which should help Wilde put a major distance between herself and Don’t Worry Darling, whose troubled production generated more buzz than the film itself.

Tony McNamara, screenwriter of Poor Things, closed his first job working with Yorgos Lanthamos in under 15 minutes. When the two hopped on a Zoom call to discuss writing The Favourite, their sensibilities just clicked. He talked about the complex challenge of writing Poor Things, a story that could have slipped into overly fantastical territory:

“It had to be grounded enough that the fantasy world around it didn’t sort of float off.”

He meticulously mapped out Emma Stone’s character’s rapid progression from baby to adulthood. In an inspiring interview, he discusses how his grammar is so poor he must have his wife or an assistant re-write each of his sentences.

Paul Schrader directs a self-reflexive final film. Schrader is the famed gritty filmmaker behind:

Here’s the official synopsis for his new film Oh, Canada:

Leonard Fife, one of sixty thousand draft evaders and deserters who fled to Canada to avoid serving in Vietnam, shares all his secrets to de-mythologize his mythologized life.

Jacob Elordi and Richard Gere star as a younger and older version of Fife. If the film is similar to the novel, then it’ll track a man stricken with cancer at 80 taking stock of his life. It’s a feeling Schrader was close to when he moved into an assisted living facility and feared becoming mad like one of his characters. Let’s hope he continues writing and directing for some time, he’s had a career resurgence over the past few years.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Makbul Mubarak’s directorial debut Autobiography, Indonesia’s Oscar entry, delves into themes of loyalty and legacy against the backdrop of Indonesia’s military dictatorship history.

Mubarak explained:

“After the regime collapsed in 1998, I started to observe the changes. It inspired me to write about loyalty and the remnants of the dictatorship in our minds.”

The film played at TIFF and Venice. The proliferation of bars and fences in the trailer ads to the visual feeling of entrapment.

A rare animated film that screened at Cannes, Robot Dreams directed by Spanish director Pablo Berger (Blancanieves) just won the top prize for an animated film at the European Film Awards. The trailer showcases a beautiful exploration of the friendship between a dog and a robot.

Here’s the official plot summary:

DOG lives in Manhattan and he’s tired of being alone. One day he decides to build himself a robot, a companion. Their friendship blossoms, until they become inseparable, to the rhythm of 80’s NYC. One summer night, DOG, with great sadness, is forced to abandon ROBOT at the beach. Will they ever meet again?

The film has been picked up by Neon for US distribution. It will release in the UK March 22nd, 2024.

Columbia’s Oscar entry, A Male, is the debut feature of Fabián Hernández. The film was selected for the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight last year. Inspired by Hernández’s youth, the movie follows the journey of Carlos (played by newcomer Dilan Felipe Ramírez Espitia) as he navigates the challenges of life in a Bogota youth shelter and confronts the complexities of masculinity in the face of urban violence. Recently acquired by NYC-based distribution company Cinema Tropical, it’s now in a limited theatrical run. Spanish language trailer here.


READER SPOTLIGHT

Gina Hole Lazarowich is a Canadian producer and first-time director. The synopsis for her film, Krow’s TRANSformation reads:

Transitioning female to male and conquering the runways of Paris, follow Krow’s remarkable journey to become his true authentic self.

The film played on the opening night of the Raindance Film Festival and has gotten some stellar reviews from the BBC. It is available in the US on multiple streaming platforms.

Check out the website and trailer here.

If you’d like to be featured in our “readers spotlight,” click here for more information.


ON THIS DAY

1967. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, directed by Stanley Kramer, starring Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier and Katharine Hepburn, premieres in NYC (Hepburn – Academy Award for Best Actress 1968).


Happy Monday.


Written by: Gabriel Miller. Research by Spencer Carter.

 

 

 

 

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